As you navigate life, whether filling out forms, shopping online or in stores, or using social media, you are sharing your personal information with companies and other organizations. You want to make sure that both you and these organizations consider your privacy. Privacy includes the ways that your personal information is:
- stored and protected
- shared with other organizations and how you are able to determine how it is shared.
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While many companies take steps to protect your personal information, there is no guarantee that it is protected to the degree that you’d like. Some companies may share or sell your information to other organizations. If a company’s databases are hacked, you could be a victim of phishing scamsor identity theft. Take steps to protect your privacy and control how your personal data is used:
- Ask companies how they will use your personal information.
- Find out how your personal information will be stored and protected from hackers and data breaches.
- Read the privacy policies from companies that you interact with. Don’t assume that they will provide the level of privacy that you want.
- Look for privacy statements on websites, sales materials, and forms that you fill out.
- Only provide the purchase date, model and serial numbers, and your contact information on warranty registration forms.
- Opt-out if you do not want the company to share your personal information with other companies.
- Find out what protections an organization will put in place, such as free credit reports or credit monitoring, if your information was compromised in a data breach.
- Change your password for your email account and for a company’s customer portal, if the company reports that they have had a data breach.
- Be careful about what you post on social media. Data brokers may scrape your online profile to create a consumer file about you and sell it to other companies, without your knowledge.
- Use cash rather than electronic payment options, if you want to keep your purchase behavior private.
- Beware of using free Wi-Fi in a store. These networks may not be secured and retailers can track your behavior in the store.
- Disable cookies when shopping online to prevent companies from tracking your online browsing habits.
Check with your state or local consumer agency to find out whether state laws help protect your privacy.
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Know Your Rights
Personal information you give to your doctor is shared with insurance companies, pharmacies, researchers, and employers based on specific regulations. Your health records are protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which:
- Defines your health information rights
- Sets rules and limits on who is allowed to receive and or see your health records
Protect Your Medical Privacy
Take steps to protect your health privacy:
- Talk with your doctor about confidentiality concerns.
- Read the fine print on medical authorization forms. Check for clauses that allow your medical information to be released.
- Request a copy of your medical records so you know what’s in them.
- Report questions about medical privacy to the doctor, state office, or the Department of Health and Human Services.
Report Medical Privacy Violations
If your HIPAA Rules have been violated:
- File a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR).
- Call the OCR for recorded information about filing complaints at 1-866-627-7748 (TDD: 1-800-537-7697).
- Contact an OCR regional office for additional information.